The Stigma Around AIDS

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The homophophobic discourse of the 80s regarding the virus can still be felt in modern society

  • In the 1980s, little was understood about the new and mysterious virus known as AIDs. With misinformation and homophobia rife, AIDs quickly became known as the “gay plague”.
  • Gay people were ushered into the shadows. Homophobic public campaigns spread, many suggesting that AIDs was a punishment to the gay community for their “wrongdoings” or their “sins”.
  • Governments also fuelled the narrative. In the US, AIDs was such a taboo that then president, Ronald Reagan, only acknowledged the disease 5 years after it was first detected in the country.
  • This narrative of shame prevented an abundance of people from going to get tested, which resulted in many both having and transmitting the virus without knowing.
  • Society has made progress, with the shift in discourse surrounding the virus, coupled with representation and antiretroviral therapies enabling those with HIV to live normal lives.
  • Yet, there is still much to be done. The stigma around the virus still exists and prevents many from being tested every single day.
  • It is crucial to remember the part that culture and discourse can play in forming our understanding of the virus and the lives of those who have it.
The Guardian
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5 articles on this topic


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